View Full Version : Bennett holds off Behler to extend his career wins total to 56

06-05-2011, 08:20 AM
By Dino Oberto

(LEHIGHTON, PA 6-4-11) It was Fan Appreciation Night at Mahoning Valley Speedway and as if it was almost scripted for such an evening the loyal patrons of the paved quarter mile got to witness two of the best drivers to arguably ever turn a lap half century old speedway.
Reigning track king John Bennett of Lehighton held off Lonnie Behler for his first victory of the season. Between the pair they represent the top two all-time leaders in career wins at the demanding circular speed bowl.
Behler, who started alongside Terry Markovic on the front row, was first out front and looking quite strong. Joe Mooney grabbed second while fifth starting Bennett settled into third.
The race went until lap nine before the first yellow waved due to a spin by Doug Bell. Prior to that Behler had a stronghold on the pack while Mooney had to keep fending off Bennett.
On the restart Behler continued to lead while Mooney and Bennett raced two-wide for second. With a dozen laps in the books Bennett eclipsed Mooney for the spot and then went chasing after Behler.
Ten laps later the yellow was back out this time for Andy Szapacs who spun while trying to allow the leaders come by.
At the resumption of the event Bennett simply out powered Behler and took command of the race and from there until the finish it was his to lose, which of course is a rarity in his case whenever the lead is in his hands.
“Restarts are just about one of the best shots you got at making up track position. It’s always hard to get around somebody especially these top five guys like we had here tonight,” said Bennett on attaining his 56th overall win and 25th in a Modified.
“Lonnie (Behler) and I have been racing against each other for a long time and you can always count on him running you hard but clean each time.
“We’re here for Fan Appreciation Night and I have to thank all the fans for coming out tonight to see the cars and giving us all well wishes. This win is for all those guys.”
Behler admitted that part of his downfall came from running with old tires but his mastery of getting around Mahoning showed with his solid runner-up tally. He was hoping that tonight would have been his first Modified victory especially after watching his son Toby snag his career first quarter midget race win the night before at Blue Mountain.
“It was a good run and I was hoping to win for my kid. Johnny (Bennett) is as good as they get here but I’ll tell tires mean everything. Last week when we raced I was on tires with 200 laps on them and tonight these tires where the same I used in a 100-lapper last year. We’re on a budget and I have to do what I have to do and I’m happy with second,” said Behler.
Point leader Tyler Haydt was third marking his fifth straight finish of a third or better. Mooney and Chip Santee completed the top five.
For Paul Skodacek of Nesquehoning the night of June 4, 2011 is one he soon won’t forget as he raced to his career first track win coming in a domineering performance with the Late Models.
Starting from the pole Skodacek was fast out of the blocks and unchallenged as well. Over the caution free 25-lap distance there was no one able to give chase as he completely excelled over the 4:32.361 journey.
In taking the popular verdict Skodacek managed a nearly 3-second margin of victory over top point man Austin Kochenash. Brothers Rick and Dave Wallace and Mike Sweeny rounded out the top five.
Jamie Smith of Lehighton has been racing since the early 1990’s at Mahoning and had won only twice so when he drove to a hard earned victory in the 25-lap Street Stock main there was just cause for all the celebration in Victory Lane.
Despite starting first, Smith never had it easy. He led the first three tours before Austin Santee went to the front. Three laps later Smith was returning the favor and while he was ahead the cars of Santee, Todd Ahner and Gene Bowers all ran under a blanket.
Once the race reached midway it turned into a two car duel between Smith and Ahner and it would stay that way to the finish. Smith was less than a half car length ahead by the time the checkers were waving.
It’s been said that you’re only as good as your last race and for Kris Graver of Lehighton that statement is just fine with him as for the third consecutive week the 18-year old won the Dirt Modified feature.
Graver started fourth but had the lead at the conclusion of lap one after a wild three car opening lap battle with Bill Sitler and Mike Stofflet.
Afterwards it would be no contest as Graver, who has now led at least one lap in each feature thus far, was in a league of his own. Two-time and defending champion Randy Thomas was second almost 4-seconds back.
In the Pro4 Late Models there were four different leaders in the first ten laps but once Barry Christman, Jr., of Northampton took over it was race for second as he executed yet another flawless run in notching his third win in five starts. Second went to Corey Hill.
In a very competitive Micro Stock main Wayne Krenn of Kempton fended of an onslaught of on comers in securing the triumph over AJ Fuge and Bob Wagner.

Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1. John Bennett, 2. Lonnie Behler, 3. Tyler Haydt, 4. Joe Mooney, 5. Chip Santee, 6. Don Wagner, 7. Terry Markovic, 8. Troy Bollinger, 9. Matt Higgins, 10. Keith Mullineaux, 11. Andy Szapacs 12. Doug Bell, 13. Brian Romig, 14. Rob Shultz, 15. Frankie Althouse, 16. Ed Heim

Late Model Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Paul Skodacek, 2. Austin Kochenash, 3. Rick Wallace, 3. Dave Wallace, 5. Mike Sweeney, 6. Geno Steigerwalt, 7. Paul Koehler, Jr., 8. Raven Schrantz, 9. George Ramos, 10. Mike VanFossen, 11. Beau Drobot

Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Jamie Smith, 2. Todd Ahner, 3. Randy Ahner, Jr., 4. Adam Santee, 5. Steve Hoffman, 6. Jon Moser, 7. Josh Mooney, 8. Kevin Smith, 9. Steven Steigerwalt, 10. Jason Frey, 11. TJ Gursky, 12. Jillian Long, 13. Shawn Sitarchyk, 14. Paul Effrig, 15. Joe Stamm, 16. Gene Bowers, 17. Cory Swartz, 18. Austin Santee, 19. Jeremy Miller, 20. Justin Mooney
Did not qualify: JR Moser

Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Kris Graver, 2. Randy Thomas, 3. Mike Stofflet, 4. Dave Thomas, 5. Joe Stangle, 6. Mike Stringer, 7. Bill Sittler, 8. DJ Wagner, Did not start: Scott Hulmes

Pro4 Late Model Feature, 20 Laps: 1. Barry Christman, Jr., 2. Corey Hill 3. Chad Keiser, 4. Aleia Geisler 5. Jake Kibler 6. Taya Wentz

Micro Stock Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1. Wayne Krenn, 2. AJ Fuge, 3. Bob Wagner, 4. Brian Correll, 5. John Rakos, 6. Mario Oberto, 7. Walt Mueller, 8. Eugene Taschler, 9. Tyler Wagner, 10. Roger Snyder, Roy Morris, did not start: Dave Allen